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AfDB-EMRC SME Forum is inaugurated as SMEs take centre stage for Africa’s future development.
The much awaited AfDB-EMRC SME Forum was inaugurated in Lisbon, Portugal on 6 June 2011 in front of more than 300 delegates by Carlos Costa Pina, Portugal’s Secretary of State for Treasury and Finance, as the role of Africa’s Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) is given priority for the continent’s future growth.
“SMEs are indispensable for the economy, for employment, for stability and equally for social cohesion. And, more importantly, SMEs are pivotal for eradicating poverty,” announced Mr Pina. He highlighted that 80 percent of jobs in Portugal are provided by the country’s SME, with two-thirds of jobs provided by companies employing tewer than 50 people.”
The growing collaboration between the AfDB and EMRC, the Brussels-based organization bringing together private and public players to establish business partnerships throughout Africa, has allowed this Forum to become an important step in recognizing the future of Africa’s SME sector, whose role has often been overlooked in the past. Today, the employment and commerce that SMEs generate throughout the continent can no longer be ignored and it is the international community’s duty to ensure the sector’s growth.
Idit Miller, EMRC Vice President, was equally clear in her message: “SMEs are fundamental for Africa’s long-term and sustainable development. EMRC’s vision for this development is a partnership between emerging economies’ entrepreneurs needing financing and the world’s leading economies’ financiers and investors looking for opportunities.”
Bobby Pittman, Vice President of the African Development Bank (AfDB) reiterated the importance of the SME sector and highlighted that the provides at least 50 percent of job creation in the OECD countries. Mr. Pittman stated two important barriers facing SMEs in Africa: lack of infrastructure and the lack of financing. For this to change there are three major issues which need to be ensured: “a favorable environment, infrastructure and energy.” Access to energy is a major priority in order to see real development and growth for the SME sector, Mr. Pittman added.
Mr. Pittman highlighted the current work of the AfDB to establish an African guarantee fund to allow small enterprises to start up. He clearly stated that a group had been set up to formulate concrete ideas in order to ensure the growth of SMEs.
A panel of experts discussed the financial tools and barriers facing SMEs in Africa and focused on the role that commercial banks have in providing the necessary loans for this sector to expand and become sustainable. Experts from the USA, Canada, Mauritius, India, Nigeria, Uganda and Kenya outlined various solutions for financing the sector, citing amongst others leasing possibilities and micro-finance.
The day was rounded off with two unique EMRC features – the Project Incubator Award and the Business-2-Business (B2B) meetings. The five Project Incubator Award finalists presented to the 300-strong audience their unique projects, with the winner announced during the Gala Dinner as Sophavet’s Pintade project in Burkina Faso.
The Business-to-Business (B2B) meetings, which are ‘live’ meetings between the Forum participants from across the world, allow business deals and partnerships to be made on the spot.